Charlie is a brave soul who shies away from stepping into the Pacific Ocean, and lives comfortably with the various wildlife sharing our garden. Though he was bred to destroy rattus norvegicus wherever they lived, he insists that our garden variety rat is a potential friend, and only gives them a bark or two.
However, the sudden action of an earthquake sends him into paroxysms of angry terror as it did in the early hours of the morning today. We were all nestled comfortably in and on our bed when the house shook and crashed. Dr. A slept soundly until Charlie announced the event, and then sleepily groaned “Naw, that wasn’t an earthquake.” The morning news showed it was a 4.0 quake right beneath us, though with no visible damage. Some so-called experts say that animals show nervousness when a quake is on the way, but that has never been the case with our animals. They simply take them as they come.
We in California are used to the earth shaking now and then, and even sometimes wonder if it will give us a bit of excitement when the weather remains warmer than usual. They predict that sometime in the near future, the San Francisco Bay Area will experience what they call the “Big One”. Since we have about as much control over the weather as we have over the fury of a terrified Jack Russell Terrier, we may as well go back to sleep.
There was a wide space which let the errant ocean flow into the shore between rocks which had delayed its progress for a thousand years or more. The small sandy beach which was its destination continued deep into a sheltered cave of rock, forming a secret hideaway. This was our private picnic spot, unknown to the rest of the world, and to which we rushed with shovels and pails and a picnic basket filled with our dinner.
We cruised Highway 1 along the Pacific Ocean for years looking for the perfect place, with impatient children hungry for dinner jumping around the back seat of the car. There were no seat belts in those days, so kids used the back seat as their playground.
Finally we hit pay dirt when we discovered road marker 28. It stood alongside the highway alone and beckoning us to come explore the beach below. Road marker 29 was somewhere ahead, and somewhere behind we had passed road marker 27, but neither of those showed much promise of a flat, sandy beach where a small family could safely build sand castles and paddle in the water. Reading the tide tables, it gave us a window of time to avoid the rush of the waves through the channel and into the cave, thus washing away all remains of tuna fish sandwiches and potato chips.
Once found, it would be a challenge to find it again, so using my age at the time, which was 28, we used that as our compass rose. Thereafter for the next year, we drove to road marker 28, unloaded our gear and raced to the beach.
Of course all good things must come to an end, and though no one else seemed to have found our private beach, we lost it and it became part of our family memory. Sometime during the year, I turned 29, and road marker 28 never looked quite the same.
We don’t live too far from the ocean. Growing up I was never more than a block or two from the Pacific ocean or at one time the Thames River in Connecticut where I learned to swim when my father threw me out into the water.. But there’s something about the sound of crashing waves and the mystery of tides that keeps me captive, and I have spent many days painting it.
Yesterday we headed out down a heavily wooded road with native redwood trees hiding the sun in speckled sections, toward Half Moon Bay, a lovely little coastal town in Northern California with a couple of friends for a relaxing day by the ocean. Several stops along the way included a cemetery containing the remains of Union soldiers which we had passed hundreds of times and never noticed. Interesting to see soldiers from the Civil War buried here in Redwood City in a tiny oak-shaded memorial park.
Next stop was a funky breakfast shop in Woodside with a collection of everything including a life-sized green Statue of Liberty greeting you as you walked in the front door and an 8 ft. anaconda skin on the wall. After that it took a few cups of great cappuccino to get us ready for the rest of the trip.
It was a brilliant sunny day with an invigorating sea breeze, so we walked to the edge of the cliff and inhaled the first pure air since we were there before. My friend is from an island in the Azores, and he too feels right at home by the sea. He said they took it for granted as we do, and the thrill of the day came when as boys they looked up occasionally to see an airplane which they knew was going to America from the direction it was flying.
Half Moon Bay,California is filled with nice small shops, bakeries and good restaurants, and the comfortable feel of a small town. It was settled by Portuguese fishermen and as you walk closer to the water, there are boats and fish shops and more restaurants. The largest building in town is Cunha’s grocery store which has been there over a hundred years and seems to be the focal point of the town. At one time there was a dance floor upstains and the downstairs was a large bar. Easy to imagine the party when the fishing boats came in at the end of the day.
The Flying Fish restaurant was our goal and the whole purpose of our trip, because they probably have the best fish and chips since our favorite pub in London near Paddington station, where we once happily survived for a week on fish and chips and beer for dinner. (And perhaps Spotted Dick for dessert!)